At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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Roger McGuinn Gets Ready For Solo ShowSouth Wales Argus, October 29th
“I'm just solo by myself,” says Roger, “I don't know if you ever saw Pete Seeger but he would come out and play a banjo and a 12 string guitar and tell stories and that's what I do between the songs. I'll be doing a bit of everything some of the hits...Read more
Woods Hole Folk Music Society Welcomes Garnet RogersCapeNews.net, October 29th
The Woods Hole Folk Music Society will welcome Garnet Rogers to the Woods Hole Community Hall on November 9. The concert takes place at 7:30 PM; doors open at 7 PM. Mr. Rogers is a Canadian folk singer, guitarist, songwriter and arranger, known ...Read more
Music review: Ralph Towner, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Grigoryan BrothersSydney Morning Herald, October 28th
Towards the end of the concert, all four musicians finally came together as a quartet for two memorable numbers: the sublime Beneath an Evening Sky (where Towner hovered over the melody on his chiming 12-string guitar) and Bird's Eye View, an ebullient ...Read more
Leo KottkeNashville Scene, October 28th
During “The Sailor's Grave on the Prairie,” a contemplative deep cut on Leo Kottke's debut album 6- and 12-String Guitar, a string breaks with a bang so loud I stopped to check my car for tire damage the first time I heard it. But the unflappable...Read more
Julien's ICONS & IDOLS Auction to Offer Rock N' Roll Memorabilia, 11/7-8Broadway World, October 27th
played guitar (Estimate: $6,000-$8,000), a Todd Rundgren stage played Italia guitar (Estimate: $600-$800), Stephen Stills Gibson J200 Guitar (Estimate: $18,000-$20,000), David Bowie's stage used Takamine 12-string guitar (Estimate: $20,000-$30,000...Read more
Coty Hogue performs a little blues, a pinch of swing, and original songs at ...Bellingham Herald, October 27th
Coty Hogue plays banjo and guitar and, accompanied by Aaron Guest on 12-string guitar and Kat Bula on fiddle, sings songs that runs the gamut of American roots music — a little blues, a pinch of swing, a spoonful of classic Opry, and a healthy dose of ...Read more
Ralph Towner rejuvenated through playing with his younger bandmatesSydney Morning Herald, October 26th
Towner sprang to prominence contributing 12-string guitar to Weather Report's 1972 album I Sing the Body Electric and, at 74, remains improvised music's pre-eminent 12-string practitioner and classical guitarist. He, in turn, rates Muthspiel and...Read more
SC4 free concerts to feature 12-string guitar playerPort Huron Times Herald, October 11th
St. Clair County Community College's Thursday Noon and Night Concert Series will continue Oct. 23 with 12-string guitar player Neil Jacobs. The concert will be at both noon and 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre on the college's Port Huron campus. Jacobs ...Read more